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If you poke around some startup circles, you'll notice a new generation of founders following a certain credo. Among some of its tenets:
Make decisions based on data
Circulate six-page "narrative memos" to be read in silence at the beginning of meetings (no PowerPoints!)
Keep teams small enough that two pizzas are sufficient for team dinners
This is but a small sliver of the gospel of Jeff Bezos, and according to a new report, Amazon is effectively churning out a flock of founders spreading it far and wide. On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal highlighted a series of former Amazon executives who left the e-commerce giant to found their own startups. Many of the businesses--which include household names like Hulu and lesser-known ventures like home-maintenance company Latchel--have gone so far as to blatantly appropriate Amazon's 14 leadership principles, which emphasize scrappiness, discipline, and constant change.
They're not adopting all things Bezos. Particularly absent is Amazon's cutthroat culture, which many seemingly want to leave behind. Still, the similarities in their strategies are striking--both to each other and to Bezos himself.
The trend has two apparent explanations. First: Amazon's management principles are deeply ingrained in every executive's head. One former vice president, Laura Orvidas, found herself saying phrases to her children like "Honey, really good bias for action." Second: Amazon's top leaders are so long-tenured that the company's rising stars often begin to see more opportunity in entrepreneurship rather than waiting for promotions that may never come.
Thus, Bezos has created a CEO factory that rivals few others. While the Journal draws a comparison between Amazon and General Electric in its heyday, it feels like an inadequate comparison: GE's execs arguably are better known for becoming high-profile CEOs of large companies, not launching their own companies. Alphabet's X Development facility has generated plenty of founders, but the common thread is usually the "moonshot" idea behind the new company's technology, rather than any set of core management tenets.
Apple's Steve Jobs cut a massively inspirational figure, but I'd argue that his cult of personality didn't generate such a complete operational philosophy for other startups to follow. Even the PayPal Mafia--a group of former PayPal employees who went on to found companies like LinkedIn, Tesla, YouTube, and Yelp--is an imperfect comparison. While those founders were undeniably influenced by their experiences at PayPal, much of their shared success has been due to the trust and support they've given each other since leaving.
It's hard to predict the future impact of these Bezos-inspired startups, but if they do well, you'll probably see even more founders preaching this gospel in the years to come. The trend might even inspire a new entrepreneurial path: Go to college, get a job at Amazon (easy, right?), rise through the ranks, stay long enough to learn the gospel (and perhaps pay off your student loans), follow your startup dreams.
Then you, too, might have children you'll praise for their biases for action one day.